999 | SCOTUS | Nov 3, 1890

137 U.S. 15" court="SCOTUS" date_filed="1890-11-03" href="https://app.midpage.ai/document/york-v-texas-92847?utm_source=webapp" opinion_id="92847">137 U.S. 15 (1890)


No. 999.

Supreme Court of United States.

Submitted October 21, 1890.
Decided November 3, 1890.

*16 Mr. Rufus H. Thayer for plaintiff in error.

Mr. James S. Hogg, Attorney General of the State of Texas, for defendant in error.

*19 MR. JUSTICE BREWER, after stating the case as above reported, delivered the opinion of the court.

It was conceded by the District and the Supreme Courts that the service upon the defendant in St. Louis was a nullity, and gave the District Court no jurisdiction; but it was held that, under the peculiar statutes of the State of Texas, the appearance for the purpose of pleading to the jurisdiction was a voluntary appearance, which brought the defendant into court. Plaintiff in error questions this construction of the Texas statutes; but, inasmuch as the Supreme Court, the highest court of the State, has so construed them, such construction must be accepted here as correct, and the only question we can consider is, as to the power of the State in respect thereto.

It must be conceded that such statutes contravene the established *20 rule elsewhere — a rule which also obtained in Texas at an earlier day, to wit, that an appearance which, as expressed, is solely to challenge the jurisdiction, is not a general appearance in the cause, and does not waive the illegality of the service or submit the party to the jurisdiction of the court. Harkness v. Hyde, 98 U.S. 476" court="SCOTUS" date_filed="1879-04-21" href="https://app.midpage.ai/document/harkness-v-hyde-89892?utm_source=webapp" opinion_id="89892">98 U.S. 476; Raquet v. Nixon, Dallam (Texas), 386; De Witt v. Monroe, 20 Tex., 289" court="Tex." date_filed="1857-07-01" href="https://app.midpage.ai/document/de-witt-v-monroe--brother-4889018?utm_source=webapp" opinion_id="4889018">20 Texas, 289; Hagood v. Dial, 43 Tex., 625" court="Tex." date_filed="1875-07-01" href="https://app.midpage.ai/document/hagood-v-dial-4892539?utm_source=webapp" opinion_id="4892539">43 Texas, 625; Robinson v. Schmidt, 48 Texas, 19.

The difference between the present rule in Texas and elsewhere, is simply this: Elsewhere the defendant may obtain the judgment of the court upon the sufficiency of the service, without submitting himself to its jurisdiction. In Texas, by its statute, if he asks the court to determine any question, even that of service, he submits himself wholly to its jurisdiction. Elsewhere, he gets an opinion of the court before deciding on his own action. In Texas, he takes all the risk himself. If the service be in fact insufficient, all subsequent proceedings, including the formal entry of judgment, are void; if sufficient, they are valid. And the question is, whether under the Constitution of the United States the defendant has an inviolable right to have this question of the sufficiency of the service decided in the first instance and alone.

The Fourteenth Amendment is relied upon as invalidating such legislation. That forbids a State to "deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law." And the proposition is, that the denial of a right to be heard before judgment simply as to the sufficiency of the service operates to deprive the defendant of liberty or property. But the mere entry of a judgment for money, which is void for want of proper service, touches neither. It is only when process is issued thereon or the judgment is sought to be enforced that liberty or property is in present danger. If at that time of immediate attack protection is afforded, the substantial guarantee of the amendment is preserved, and there is no just cause of complaint. The State has full power over remedies and procedure in its own courts, and can make any order it pleases in respect thereto, provided that substance of right is secured without unreasonable burden to parties and litigants. *21 Antoni v. Greenhow, 107 U.S. 769" court="SCOTUS" date_filed="1883-03-18" href="https://app.midpage.ai/document/antoni-v-greenhow-90811?utm_source=webapp" opinion_id="90811">107 U.S. 769. It certainly is more convenient that a defendant be permitted to object to the service, and raise the question of jurisdiction, in the first instance, in the court in which suit is pending. But mere convenience is not substance of right. If the defendant had taken no notice of this suit, and judgment had been formally entered upon such insufficient service, and under process thereon his property, real or personal, had been seized or threatened with seizure, he could by original action have enjoined the process and protected the possession of his property. If the judgment had been pleaded as defensive to any action brought by him, he would have been free to deny its validity. There is nothing in the opinion of the Supreme Court or in any of the statutes of the State, of which we have been advised, gainsaying this right. Can it be held, therefore, that legislation simply forbidding the defendant to come into court and challenge the validity of service upon him in a personal action, without surrendering himself to the jurisdiction of the court, but which does not attempt to restrain him from fully protecting his person, his property and his rights against any attempt to enforce a judgment rendered without due service of process, and therefore void, deprives him of liberty or property, within the prohibition of the Fourteenth Amendment? We think not.

The judgment is affirmed.